Covid 19: Not to Mess the Nature

April 20, 2020

Not to Mess the Nature: Lesson to learn from the ongoing Covid-19 War

Dr. Shah Md Ahsan Habib

(Published in the Financial Express in 2020)

With the modernization efforts and hasty development process, the globe witnessed appearances of a striking number of novel epidemic and pandemic viruses and the comeback of some known viruses to give us halts. A wide range of factors are considered responsible for the appearing and re-appearing of these means of diseases that include increased population density of humans, animals and plants; increased travel and movement of human; increased transportation of animals, plants and other commercial goods by ship; deforestation and afforestation; urbanization and irrigation projects; and increased numbers of relocation of people. For example, ocean travel using ships brought remarkable mobility in the globe. There are evidences that rodents, a very successful travelers of the oceans, were responsible for several rodent-associated viruses that are endemic to North America are genetically very close relatives of African viruses. They almost certainly arrived in the Americas on cargo or slave ships via infected rodents. In addition, during recent decades, climate change has been revealed as a major influential factor on disease emergence.

In a recently research published in WHO web notes that the apparent increase in many infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, hantavirus, hepatitis C, SARS, etc. in the globe reflects the combined impacts of rapid demographic, environmental, social, technological and other changes in our ways-of-living. Changes in infectious disease transmission patterns are a likely major consequence of climate change. There is historical evidences of associations between climatic conditions and infectious diseases. Malaria is of great public health concern, and seems very sensitive to long-term climate change. Excessive monsoon rainfall and high humidity were identified as a major influences, enhancing mosquito breeding. Modernization and production ventures like dams, irrigation, agricultural intensification, deforestation, new habitation and urbanization creates foundation for a number of infectious diseases.  For example, urbanization and urban crowding brought in diseases like Cholera and Dengue that created pathway through water contamination and mosquito breeding.

Alongside modernization efforts, human society has contentiously been engaged in challenging the natural order. On the way to attain ambitious growth, humans are harvesting the natural resources of the planet like water, fossil fuels, timber, land, ore, etc. and plugging them into an industrial cycle making available various consumables like cars, clothes, furniture, phones, processed food etc. and a lot of waste. This process depletes the natural ability of the environment to balance itself and disrupts ecological cycles which in turn is leading to changes in the climate of our planet. One key area in which the relationship between human and the nature has played a particularly central role is emerging technologies. Some new technologies alter the way that people interact with their natural environment. Some of the fundamentally unnatural interventions are clearly debated. For example, agricultural biotechnology involves manipulating the genetic structure of plants. Concerns about messing with nature have been fundamental to debate about genetically modified crops, as well as the cloning of animals. There are opinions that genetically modified crops and animal cloning ‘threaten the natural order’ in spite of several benefits. These activities brought in two competing areas: hope and fear. The fear because of the perception of a section of people that the scientists playing God, abusing their knowledge, and interfering with nature. The prospect of geoengineering seems to add further step where nature is actively shaped, managed and controlled on an unprecedented scale.  It is the vast array of existing and evolving technologies that said to have potentials to be deployed in order to control or alter the Earth’s climate.

In this age of modernization, nanotechnologies is said to be violated a boundary between the concepts of natural and the artificial. Probably the eventual indication, of the intertwined relationship between human, technology and nature is anthropogenic climate change. In 1970, ‘The End of Nature’ published by the environmentalist Bill McKibben argues that the natural systems could no longer be considered independent from human influence; and in recent time he notes, anthropogenic climate change marked a definitive shift and now the nature is fundamentally linked to choices made by human societies. His comments indicates the extent of intervention, “by the end of nature I do not mean the end of the world. The rain will still fall and the sun shine, though differently than before. When I say ‘nature’ I mean a certain set of human ideas about the world and our place in it.”

The use of modern technology and over exploration of nature resulted an artificial structure of production environment in the globe today. It is more or less recognized that the existing production environment especially food and consistent human-animal contact have created the perfect environment for the transformation and emergence of new diseases. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that three out of four new infectious diseases come from human-animal contact.

The speed and scope of the covid-19 outbreak surprised and halted the globe as happened many times earlier, but, in the much bigger way. The quick spread and collapses everywhere remained me the famous population theory of Thomas Malthus. The economist theorized that populations grew in geometric progression- this may not be true, however over the years we have over-explored and exploited the nature and the natural resources to meet the growing desires of the population.  Malthus then argued that because there would be a higher population than the availability of food, many people would die from the shortage of food, which he termed as the natural correction and preventative checks; and these checks would lead to the Malthusian catastrophe. He believed that natural forces would correct the imbalance between food supply and population growth in the form of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes and human-made actions such as wars and famines. The development in the globe over the years may not exactly match with the Malthus’s perception of corrective action, however, certain developments resemble. There may not be shortage of food supply; however, there is gap between ‘healthy & nutritious’ food and the supply; and huge difference between desire-ambition-greed and the available supply of the means. No respite to the exploitation and destruction of the nature and the environment. Alongside availing comfort and luxury of modernization, the globe is consistently fighting with the manmade actions and natural turbulences to survive.  

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